“See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut” (Rev. 3:8).
The late night flight into Ndjamena is surreal. Am I really landing in Chad? I cover my hair with the obligatory scarf to exit the plane, enter the bus parked on the tarmac, and sit patiently for a period of time, only to drive a matter of yards to exit the bus and climb the steps into the airport.
An official looks at my passport, scans my forehead, and squirts an unknown substance onto my hands. Another official hands me an embarkation form, but my pen is leaking ink, so he sends me to the men’s bathroom where there is a working faucet. I hurriedly scrub most of the ink off, return to fill in the form and take my place in a long line that eventually brings me to an official seated at a glass-enclosed desk.
I try to act nonchalant, but I am secretly relieved when he returns my passport.
After showing my passport again at the stairs down to the luggage area, I spot a porter with my name on a card. He hurries me towards the exit door, where there is a delay with the baggage inspection official and a request for bribe money.
The porter is vanishing out the door with my luggage, so I grab my passport out of the official’s hand and run to find the porter. No one stops me and I enter the Chadian night with skirts flying.
At the Land Cruiser in the parking lot, there are joyful hugs from my teammates, my luggage is loaded, and Jeremy wheels the vehicle out into the dark streets. He patiently answers my flood of questions while expertly avoiding what seems like a chaotic tangle of vehicles and people running across the street. It is oddly comforting to feel the sand on the seat under my fingers and see the same fur on the dash for heat protection that was there when I visited before.
The guards at the compound call out greetings as they open the gates wide for us to drive through. My luggage is hefted into the apartment where colorful signs from the missionary children decorate the entrance. It is very late and after some brief instructions from Jeremy and Sallee, I reluctantly let my teammates go and gratefully climb into a bed with crisp, clean sheets.
Day 1 – Monday
“See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you” (Zechariah 3:4).
I woke up early to a rooster crowing, dogs barking, and a new way to dress in long skirts and head scarves.
A gas stove and six matches later, I had pancakes on my plate and tea in my teacup that travels with me. A cold shower and I head outside to see the missionary children playing in the courtyard.
Fellow missionary Sonja N. takes me on a short walk around the outside of the walls. She introduces me to the woman pounding grain into flour and selling onions outside the gate. Children and adults call her name while we pick our way through the garbage and avoid the muddy spots.
Back at my apartment, I carefully remove my sandals outside the door and think about how very rich I am.
Later, I have lunch with Jeremy and Sallee S. and their daughters in the office compound and get a glimpse of the wide range of their duties.
Day 2 – Tuesday
Veteran missionaries reassure me that it is not outside the norm to lose my breakfast and spend a large portion of the day getting acquainted with my bathroom the first week here.
Jeremy and Sallee help me set up my finances and phone service. Later, a knock on the door brings the tailor with new cushions for the wooden chairs and couch in my apartment.
Late in the day, I call my mom on Messenger and we are thrilled to know we can talk to each other live, when the internet is working! We are not so far away from one another after all!
Day 3 – Wednesday
I attempt a shower to wash my hair, but unheated water in combination with a low-grade fever is too much for me. A decision to wash my hair in the kitchen sink rewards me with a nose-to-nose meeting with a gecko. Surprised that it doesn’t faze me at all, I switch to the other sink and then find a dustpan to take the little guy outside. Maybe I can do this!
I am frustrated that I do not feel well and miss out on a trip to the market. I so want to see this country that I live in! I tried to do more unpacking but my temperature went up.
Day 4 – Thursday
It feels so right to be here. More unpacking reminds me of family and friends. There is grieving for the loss of nearness, along with a deep sense of peace that God has brought me here. How can both realities exist together?
I am surprised at how quickly it becomes normal to use a water purifier, and to sanitize vegetables, fruits and dishes in bleach.
A meal of corn boule with a sauce of okra and fermented beans at the home of missionaries Nathaniel and Carrie S. goes down well and I begin to feel stronger again.
Day 5 – Friday
My fever broke in the night and it seems so easy to accomplish daily tasks now.
It is sobering and mind-boggling to prepare a “go-bag” in the event of an unforeseen evacuation situation.
Joy of joys, it is possible to take a fairly warm shower later in the day when the heat of the sun has warmed the water in the pipes!
Day 6 – Saturday
I try to reconcile my nice clean bed under a mosquito net with the idea that there are people around me sleeping on mud floors during the rainy season.
Just when unpacking and sorting medical supplies is getting way too complicated, there is a knock on the door and one of the missionary children asks if I want to put a puzzle together with him in the library. I readily agree, leaving behind the medical mess on the floor, and we go to the library where we sort the edge pieces and talk about what our favorite foods are.
Later, Carrie stops by my apartment. She briefs me on when and how to use the malaria test kits, and I try to picture poking my finger for the blood sample.
Day 7 – Sunday
Today, we worshiped together at the compound. It was a precious time of sharing from God’s Word, praying, and singing together.
I am so very thankful that God is good and gracious and gives me a whole day to rest and worship him. My strength has returned and with it the realization that I am really here in Chad, where God told me I would be. Praise the Lord!
Kay A. serves Lutheran Brethren International Mission and the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as a missionary in Chad, Africa.